A Guide to Early Admission MBA Programs

Alana Olswing

A Guide to Early Admission MBA Programs 

If you have always dreamed of starting your own business, solving problems as a consultant, rising to be a CEO, or just receiving an MBA, you might be interested in getting a head start by applying to early admission MBA programs. These tracks are designed for undergraduate students, or graduate students with no full-time work experience, who are ready to solidify the next steps in their career and education. 

Early admission MBA programs provide an opportunity for high-achieving undergraduate applicants to plan their future through either direct admission to an MBA class or a conditional 2-5-year deferred acceptance, depending on the institution. These programs are designed for students with no full-time work experience and open the door for recent graduates to build expertise in a chosen field before getting their MBA. To guide you through your options, I have outlined how to determine your eligibility, provided an overview of some of the top options, and added tips on how to give yourself an edge when you’ve got your eye on early admission MBA programs.

What You Need to Apply and Determining Your Eligibility

First and foremost, in order to qualify for early admission MBA programs, you need to be in the final year of your undergraduate studies or completing the last year of a graduate degree that you entered immediately after undergrad. In short, you cannot have any full-time work experience under your belt. You will typically need 2 letters of recommendation, a completed application, and a resumé. You will also need a GMAT or GRE score. 

Some programs, like the Sloan 2-5 Deferment Program will waive a GRE/GMAT score for MIT students with a GPA of 4.2 or higher (so always check the small print!). Business schools tend to prefer the GMAT since it shows more subject-specific knowledge. You can read about which one is right for you here. If you are an international student, you will need to demonstrate language proficiency with a TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE score. Remember that early admission MBA programs are extremely competitive. Only the best of the best are admitted. You don’t just need the above requirements; you need to be a super star applicant!

Overview of the Best Programs

Below I will walk you through an overview of a handful of the many early admission MBA programs to help you determine which might be a suitable fit for you. 

Harvard Business School 2+2 Program

One of the most sought-after programs, the HBS 2+2 is designed to give students two years of full-time work experience followed by two years to complete their MBA. Students who are in their last year of undergraduate courses (or someone who pursued a master's immediately following undergrad) apply to HBS 2+2. Applicants are admitted during their final year of school, then they have to work for 2 years, and then start classes at HBS to complete a 2 year MBA.

HBS looks for nontraditional applicants for their future MBA class. These include students interested in entrepreneurship or those pursuing a more technical background, which are seen by Harvard Business School as “nontraditional.” You could also be involved in even more unusual industries such as film or chemistry when compared to the “traditional” routes of finance, consulting, or economics. It is interesting to note that 57% of HBS 2+2 students come from a STEM background! With a current class size of 115, the 2+2 program has a 9% acceptance rate.

The Numbers for HBS:

  • Average GPA: 3.79
  • Average GMAT: 730
  • Application Deadline: April 2, 2020

MIT Sloan 2-5 Year Deferred Enrollment Program 

MIT provides more wiggle room for the amount of work experience you can pursue before enrolling for your MBA. Although you can take a minimum of two years to work before enrolling in the full-time MBA option, the average work experience of the 416 first-year students at the MIT Sloan MBA cohort is 4.9 years. All other protocols are the same as regular admits. You accept your place for a full-time MBA and your enrollment is deferred from there. As a result, you set your path in stone and can delay actually starting classes for 2-5 years to gain work experience first. 

One of the most enticing features of Sloan is the amount of degree options you can pursue. There are three tracks: Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation and three certificates: Business Analytics, Healthcare, and Sustainability. The programs can help you further specialize in your particular business interest. There are also a host of dual degree options you can pursue. The one common thread is that all students start with the core curriculum, and then are encouraged to branch out from there. 31% of students entering this program bring an engineering background.

The Numbers for Sloan:

  • Average GPA: 3.48
  • GMAT Range: 700-760
  • Application Deadline: April 6, 2020 3:00 pm EST
  • Application Deadline for Current MIT Students: October of each year

The Booth Scholars Programs 

This UChicago offering allows for students to defer enrollment from 2-4 years under the condition of working full-time. The class consists of 57 students who come from a diverse background of interests, including STEM, Psychology, and History. In 2018, the Booth Scholars Program opened its doors to beyond just candidates from UChicago. The school prides itself on supporting admits as they navigate their first job after college by offering consistent support in the form of regular programming and network events. The Booth admissions committee highly emphasizes their expectation that you bring impressive extracurriculars and the willingness to develop leadership skills throughout your deferral period.

The Numbers for Booth:

  • GPA Range: 3.28 - 4.0
  • GMAT Range: 650 - 780
  • Application Deadline: April 2, 2020 

The Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program

Wharton’s take on this route is unlike the other early admission MBA programs listed here, since it is only open to University of Pennsylvania undergraduate seniors. Students defer enrollment for 2-4 years to acquire work experience  and are encouraged to find employment across a wide range of industries. Once you’re admitted, you’ll have access to all of Wharton’s resources, community members, and professional development opportunities, even during your deferment. With a class of 16 students, they mostly are accepted from the College of Arts and Sciences, Dual Degree programs, and/or Wharton itself. 

The Numbers for Wharton: 

  • Average GPA: 3.68
  • Average GMAT: 716
  • Application Deadline: April 1, 2020

Yale Silver Scholars Program 

Yale’s option among early admission MBA programs is the most unique, because it is a direct ticket into the MBA program. Students enter the three-year MBA program directly after completing their undergraduate degree, and do not have the option to defer enrollment for any period of time. Candidates complete the same application as the full-time MBA students, and are similarly considered across the numerous application rounds. Students complete one year of integrated core curriculum, one year of extended internship, and a year of electives. 31% of the Silver Scholars class has a background in the humanities.

The Numbers for Yale:

  • Average GPA: 3.66
  • Average GMAT: 720
  • Application Deadlines:
    • Round 1: September of each year
    • Round 2: January of each year
    • Round 3: April 14

How to Give Yourself an Edge

Once you have decided that getting an MBA is in your future before you’ve gained full-time professional experience, the most important thing to do is identify the early admission MBA programs that would be the best fit for you. Look at the type of students these programs look for: are they mostly from humanities, STEM, engineering, or business backgrounds? Get to know the curriculum and highlights of each program, and do not be afraid to talk to alumni. Finding your fit will help you succeed in the application process and down the road in the program itself.

If there is one thing in common for all of the early admission MBA programs, it is that they seek students who have demonstrated ambition and a unique approach to business. This means that you can distinguish yourself by pursuing impactful leadership opportunities in your activities and internships, and bring business to creative spaces like the humanities and social sciences. Aim for tangible and demonstrative achievements. If you are applying for early admit programs, you need to take the time to gain business experiences that are impressive enough for them to go ahead and admit you now. Like we’ve said, you don’t need full-time work on your resumé, but your experiences should be thorough and impressive! 

Finally, when completing your application, ask yourself how you will bring a diverse perspective to the MBA classroom. Business schools want individuals who will each add something different to the group. How will your study of humanities affect your approach to corporate teamwork? How can your engineering skills teach you to analyze marketing case studies? How has being a college athlete provided you with habits that will help you tackle financial analysis and microeconomics? In short, how will you approach the MBA curriculum differently from the classmate sitting next to you?

By pursuing one of the top early admission MBA programs, you are setting yourself up for long-term success. Remember, these programs are not looking for cookie cutter consultants and economics majors, so think about how to harness your background. Most importantly, do not be afraid to be creative as you navigate your undergraduate degree and the application process. Good luck!

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